Though the words ‘adapt’ and ‘adopt’ are spelt and pronounced quite similarly, the main reason for confusion in their usage arises from the subtle difference in their meanings. Sometimes even seasoned writers can make a mistake by using one in place of the other. Here we explain the difference in the meaning and usage of ‘adapt’ and ‘adopt’.
The word ‘adapt’ means to take something and somehow make it compatible with a new set of conditions or a new situation, either by tweaking that thing itself or if not possible then by making some adjustments in one’s own life in order to gain compatibility. For example, when a small-town person comes to live in a big city, he needs to ‘adapt’ himself to city life by making minor changes in his food habits and attire in order to feel comfortable and not out of place.
On the other hand, the word ‘adopt’ means to take something (or someone) and make it your own as it is. For example, you ‘adopt’ a child when you accept to legally make it your own. You ‘adopt’ a country that is not your own if you decide to live there permanently. One can also ‘adopt’ customs and laws from other sources.
Here is another example of ‘adopt’ versus ‘adapt’: When we import a cuisine from another country we ‘adopt’ it, but if we tweak it or fine-tune it to suit our native taste buds or to accommodate the locally available ingredients then it is said to have been ‘adapted’ to the local conditions.
Here are some more examples:
- The key to happiness lies in the ability to adapt oneself to different environments.
- The play staged in our school function was adapted from one of Shakespeare’s plays.
- He left his new job because he couldn’t adapt himself to rural life in a remote area.
- Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike. – Oscar Wilde
- Always adopt a positive attitude if you want to be happy.
Note that ‘adapt’ is always used with the proposition ‘to’ or ‘from’: One ‘adapts oneself to’ something, but something is ‘adapted from’ another thing. On the other hand, you simply ‘adopt’ something or someone, and the thing or person has been ‘adopted by’ you.
That’s all about ‘adapt’ versus ‘adopt’.